"I'll let you in on a little secret...I don't like the playoffs anymore. I don't say that flippantly, or merely because the Steelers were left out of the mix this year, but I simply don't care for the idea of a playoff anymore. I still sit and watch the games, I still use it as an excuse to order pizza, but quite honestly, I think the playoff is one of the worst things any league can do to marginalize its regular season.
Think of it this way: originally there were no playoffs. The top National League baseball team played the top American League team in the World Series...and that was it. This went on for over sixty years until finally in 1969 the league decided to create a four-team playoff. Now the winners of the two divisions would play each other for a short at the World Series. This continued for another 20+ years until the field expanded again to eight teams, and now ten. The story is similar in all the leagues. What was once a celebration of the truly greatest teams in the league was now merely a fun tournament consisting of the top third...or in some cases the top half of teams! Regular season dominance is irrelevant...as long as you can string a few wins together at the end, you'll be the "champion".
Imagine if the rest of the world worked this way. After nine weeks of school, your grade was ultimately thrown away and decided by an arm-wrestling match with another student. Imagine if a business deal was left up to a coin flip, or the Oscars were decided by a lottery machine. Yes, the playoffs require skill, but do they really pick a champion?
Don't get me wrong, no one was more excited than me to see the Steelers sweep the favorites in 2005 and win Super Bowl XL. It was an excellent ride worthy of a Disney movie...but now it keeps happening! The Giants did it two years later, and then the Packers three years after that. Continually crowning the under-dog seems only to weaken the ultimate prize. The Pirates trip to the playoff this year was a lot of fun, but I was ok when they lost. We all knew they weren't the best, but it was nice to see them win for a change."
I'm well aware that it looks weak to attack a construct that you were excited about just days before. The playoffs are exciting because it's a symbol that you've had an excellent season. That's the main reason NHL playoffs have failed to impress us as over half of all teams make it to the tournament at the end of the season. While a win last night would have been much preferred, it doesn't take away from what the team did all year. If you'd have offered me a Wild Card loss back when the team was 18-26 in late May, I would have been happy with that trade.